The Tourism Bureau is applying to list Yeliou (野柳) and other tourist attractions on the northeast coast and Penghu as a UNESCO geopark.
“The nation cannot be recognized by UNESCO for political reasons,” said bureau director general Janice Lai (賴瑟珍). “But being listed as a geopark could serve as a springboard for people in other countries to get to know Taiwan and attract them to visit the country.”
Lai made the remarks at a seminar yesterday at which 40 experts from around the world were invited to share their experiences in participating in UNESCO's geopark initiative. Inspectors from UNESCO were also invited to the seminar.
UNESCO has recognized a total of 57 geoparks, including 20 in China.
The bureau has identified Yeliou, Bitoujiao (鼻頭角) and Longtong (龍洞) as potential geoparks.
The spectacular columnar basalt structure in Tongpan (桶盤), Penghu County, will also be listed on the application to UNESCO.
The Yeliou administration said yesterday it planned to complete its application by next year and submit it “when the political atmosphere is right.”
Since 2000, Yeliou has been following the necessary steps that need to be taken before it can be accepted by UNESCO's geopark initiative.
Lin Chun-chuan (林俊全), a professor at National Taiwan University's geography department, said a geopark is different from a national park given its twin focus on preservation and tourism development.
“This is why China wants to list its tourist attractions as geoparks,” Lin said. “They know tourists from around the world will visit those spots, even if they are in the middle of nowhere.
Denys Brunsden, former chairman of the Geological Society of London, said Taiwan should strive to preserve the environment and develop the industry at the same time.